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Russia Advances in Luhansk as Biden Plans New Weapons Shipments

In an 11th U.S. arms package, Ukraine is to receive longer-range rocket launchers.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly man to walk out of a damaged appartment building after a strike in the city of Slovyansk at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 31, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly man to walk out of a damaged appartment building after a strike in the city of Slovyansk at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 31, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen help an elderly man to walk out of a damaged appartment building after a strike in the city of Slovyansk at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 31, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at new developments in Ukraine, Russia-Gulf ties, and more news worth following from around the world.

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U.S. to Announce Fresh Ukraine Arms Package

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at new developments in Ukraine, Russia-Gulf ties, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


U.S. to Announce Fresh Ukraine Arms Package

The city of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s east has largely fallen under Russian control, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday, following a concentrated Russian effort in recent days.

The city’s destruction and likely occupation means that only Sievierodonetsk’s twin city, Lysychansk, stands in the way of Russia claiming control over the entire Luhansk region—an area it had recognized as a republic at the outset of the war.

As the war grinds on, the United States is expected to provide Ukraine’s forces with additional firepower. The White House is set to announce a new arms package today that will include the deployment of new longer-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, a truck-launched system capable of striking targets within a 50-mile range.

The decision is a compromise, with Ukraine pushing for equipment that would lengthen its reach. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden said he would not send rocket systems that could strike inside Russia, an announcement Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev welcomed as “rational.”

Biden made his Ukraine goals even more explicit in a New York Times op-ed published on Tuesday evening, in which he said his administration was “not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”

He also provided clarifications on previous remarks, saying he did not seek to oust Putin from power, would not prolong the war “just to inflict pain on Russia,” and would not send U.S. troops into battle “so long as the United States or our allies are not attacked.”

Ukraine’s food blockade. Behind the front lines, Ukraine is looking for ways to start exporting agricultural products. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said work was underway on an “international UN-led operation with navies of partners” to secure its food exports.

As FP reported in May, a continued blockade of Ukraine’s ports threatens not just the millions of tons of grain currently being held up but the future of the next harvest, which despite the war is expected to come in at 70-80 percent of normal levels.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country controls entry and exit from the Black Sea, placed “particular importance” on establishing a safe trade route during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday.

While Ukraine’s exports are still under discussion, Russia has already restarted cargo shipping from the captured port city of Mariupol, as a ship laden with 2,500 tons of metal headed for the Russian port of Rostov on Tuesday. The Ukrainian government has described the shipment as a form of looting.

The EU oil embargo. Meanwhile, after weeks of negotiations, European leaders have agreed to a sixth package of Russia sanctions, which include an immediate ban on seaborne oil imports. The agreement did not come without some compromises, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban negotiating a carve-out for oil exported via pipeline to get the deal done.

But for Zelensky, it hasn’t come soon enough. “When over 50 days have passed between the fifth and sixth sanction packages, the situation is not acceptable for us,” Zelensky said on Tuesday.

The impact of the ban has also been questioned by market analysts, with the high price of oil likely to provide a cushion for Russia—even if it has to sell at a discount to Asian customers.

Another more powerful measure appears to be on the horizon, however. According to the Financial Times, Britain and the European Union are planning an insurance ban on ships transporting Russian oil, “shutting Moscow out of the vital Lloyd’s of London insurance market and sharply curbing its ability to export crude.” The specifics of the plan are not yet clear, but experts argue it is one of the strongest economic weapons available to the U.K. government and the EU.


What We’re Following Today

Russia-Gulf ties. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with his counterparts from Gulf Cooperation Council member states in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today. The visit comes a day after he visited Bahrain and a day before OPEC+ ministers meet to discuss oil production levels. In an effort to maintain a neutral position on Ukraine, GCC ministers will also meet virtually with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Israel-India relations. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz travels to India today to meet with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh and to mark 30 years of defense and diplomatic ties between the two countries. Gantz’s trip comes ahead of a visit to India by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later this month—the timing of which has raised speculation that there are tensions between the two Israeli politicians.


Keep an Eye On

Tunisia’s strike. Tunisia’s 1 million-member UGTT trade union has called for a June 16 national strike to protest President Kais Saied’s proposed spending cuts and privatization plans, and to demand wage increases. The strike action comes as the country is seeking around $4 billion in loans, the conditions of which usually include austerity measures.

Ethiopia’s war. Eritrean forces struck a town in northern Ethiopia over the weekend, killing at least one child as shells hit a school, according to a U.N. report. The strike is the first of its kind in more than two months of relative peace in the region. Tigray People’s Liberation Front spokesman Getachew Reda decried the assault as a “desperate attempt to escalate the tension and drag us into more action.”


FP Live

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, the fate of neighboring Belarus is also closely entwined with the outcome of the war. The country’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, sided with Russia when he allowed Belarus to be used as a launch pad for the invasion. But where do the Belarusian people stand?

Join Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, today at 1 p.m. EDT to answer these questions and more in a wide-ranging interview with Amy MackinnonForeign Policy’s national security and intelligence reporter.


Odds and Ends

In an effort to combat the “enormous amount of energy, time and money” wasted on the phone to customer service lines, the Spanish government has introduced a bill aimed at reducing customer wait times to three minutes and forcing companies to have human operators rather than machines.

“Customer service is a critical part of our relations with consumers which unfortunately and far too often causes endless headaches for Spanish families because far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service,” Consumption Minister Alberto Garzón said.

If passed, the new law would apply to all companies with more than 250 workers and to all utility providers—no matter the size.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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